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The Baltimore Sun

New law isn't really a ground rent ban

I couldn't help but notice The Sun's headline trumpeting the news that "New ground rents are made illegal" (March 23).

A euphoric article followed, in which our governor is quoted congratulating himself and the legislature for protecting us, and The Sun reminds us for the umpteenth time that this is all the result of the paper's hard-hitting, investigative journalism.

I hate to burst your bubble, or imply that our governor's opinion might be unjustified, but I must ask this basic question: Have folks at The Sun read this bill?

I assume the answer is "no" - or at least that you haven't discussed it with a lawyer or law student - because if you had, you would have learned immediately that the bill will actually accomplish nothing of significance.

In particular, and despite The Sun's headline (and the governor's assertions), the bill does not have the effect of making "new ground rents" "illegal," at least in any remotely meaningful way.

Although the bill is extremely short, it may be summarized even more succinctly: It prohibits the creation of new ground leases on certain residential property, if the leases are - I quote - "for a term of years renewable forever subject to the payment of a periodic ground rent."

That's it. That's all it does.

This means that the bill still permits the creation of new ground leases, as long as they aren't "renewable forever."

Thus, for example, a new ground lease for a single term of, say, 100, 200 or even 500 years would pass muster under this bill because it wouldn't be "renewable."

I suspect the largely theoretical differences in impact between a (still permitted) new 500-year ground lease and a (now prohibited) "renewable forever" ground lease won't be of much comfort to the good citizens whose interests The Sun suggests have been protected by this ineffective, grandstanding, feel-good legislation.

Gregory Reed


The writer is a real estate attorney.

Public financing just adds to tax burden

The Sun's support for public financing of political campaigns is yet another surrender to the entrenched legislators in this state ("Time for real reform," editorial, March 22).

Politicians never craft legislation that threatens their hold on power.

So are we supposed to believe that this public financing proposal won't further strengthen the advantages of incumbency for the legislators who would enact it?

With legislators and our governor setting the stage for the "restructuring" of our system of taxation (i.e., for significant tax increases), are taxpayers supposed to cheer the idea of financing the campaigns of politicians?

Are we supposed to believe that big money won't find the openings and loopholes in any legislation to continue wielding influence?

Rather than allowing the foxes to guard the henhouse through yet another costly government program hoisted on the backs of taxpayers, campaign reform, if it is needed, should simply require full, immediate disclosure of any contributions over a low, fixed amount.

Doug Lombardo


Taxes are driving folks out of state

The editorial "Squeezed out" (March 23) only mentioned congestion and the high cost of housing as culprits for people moving out of the state.

I believe it missed the most important reason - taxes.

Paul Kowalski


Crime rate blocks downtown progress

In his column about a new arena for Baltimore, David Steele says he can't name anything downtown Buffalo has that downtown Baltimore doesn't except an arena ("Arena first step in filling basketball void in city," March 25).

How about the fact that Baltimore has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country, and a murder rate that's ahead of last year's rate?

I love downtown Baltimore, but let's not fool ourselves.

The inability of city officials to get the murder rate under control is a huge problem - one that, I might add, Baltimoreans are often asked about by people from other areas.

Until the government gets more active in fighting violent crime in Baltimore, an old arena will be the least of this city's problems.

Vince Clews


Official ugliness clutters the city

I have a suggestion for Mayor Sheila Dixon in her efforts to clean up the city: Get rid of the "official graffiti" ("Readers toss out slogan ideas to inspire tidiness," March 20).

It is bad enough when citizens clutter things. Public officials should not add to the ugliness.

First, get rid of the ugly white-on-black "Believe" signs that are plastered all over. They detract from the appearance of our city and add nothing.

Second, get rid of the horrible blue lights that the Police Department has perched high on too many poles.

Third, the worst "official graffiti" of all is that big "Male/Female" sculpture in front of Penn Station. Surely the mayor could find a less visible and more suitable location for that "art."

George Tyson


Pet shelters face increasing burden

I appreciate the attention a recent article brought to abandoned and homeless pets in Montgomery County ("Shelter offers love in all shapes, sizes and species," March 19).

But Sun readers should also be aware of the number of surrendered and abused animals in Baltimore.

Last year, the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter received more than 10,000 animals, a 13 percent increase over the previous year.

This year, we have already taken in 21 percent more than last year at this time.

BARC is striving to provide adequate shelter and increase the adoption of surrendered and stray animals.

But we cannot do this alone. We need the support of the Baltimore community.

We will be judged by the way our animals are treated.

Louise T. Keelty


The writer is a member of the board of BARC.

Meissner's mentor sets right example

Thank you for the terrific article highlighting Fallston High School's director of student activities, Jim O'Toole ("Kimmie's right-hand man," March 21).

I have often wondered how Kimmie Meissner has been able to so gracefully handle the intense emotional, logistical and practical pressures accompanying her quick rise to international fame.

Now I see that in addition to her supportive family, this talented young lady is also fortunate to have a mentor such as Mr. O'Toole helping her to organize and balance overwhelming obligations while meeting the demands of her training and competition schedule.

This is a wonderful example of the impact dedicated teachers can have in guiding the lives of those who will shape the future of our world.

Deborah Payne

Bel Air

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